But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.
Galatians 5:22-23 NKJV
Ever notice there are certain subjects that either get little attention from the pulpit, or when examined are given such light treatment that conclusions are rather unclear and open to interpretation? As I grow in my spiritual life, it appears to me that one of the subjects high on that list would have to be a study of the Holy Spirit. At times it almost seems that teachers are afraid to broach the subject, yet my personal opinion is that it is probably the most important one we need to understand in order to perform the duties of a true believer.
A couple of weeks ago we spoke about the Holy Spirit as a person, and not just a power, coming into the lives of all believers at the time of their decision to ask for forgiveness from their sin and turn their lives over to Christ. We are told that at that time we receive power as a result of the Spirit's “indwelling”, a gift we are given in order to get the help we will need to live our lives according to His wishes.
"But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth."
Acts 1:8 NKJV
Now one of the first things I learned when I first began to study the Holy Spirit is that there is often confusion between what is known as being “indwelt” and in being “filled” with the Holy Spirit. In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul tells believers that they should be filled with the Spirit.
And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit,
Ephesians 5:18 NKJV
Many people teach and believe that to be “filled” with the Spirit is a separate and different experience than the “indwelling” of the Holy Spirit which occurs at the time of our conversion. Yet the problem I and many others see in that position is that it infers that what we receive from God when we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit is somewhat inadequate, or that there is something more to get.
The best way I know to try and understand what Paul means here is to look closely at the word filled, and examine how it is used in other passages in order to understand what we are being told. The Greek word for filled used here is plēroō, which is a verb that means to be full in the sense that we are completely full of something.
And these things we write to you that your joy may be full.
1 John 1:4 NKJV
In other words, what Paul is saying is that we have what we need inside of us in the person of the Holy Spirit, but we also need to make a choice to use that resource when the need arises. The problem occurs when we choose to try and use some other resource rather than the one we have already been given. I look at it this way; my life is a glass full of water. I am full to the brim with what I need, but if I choose to add ice, it displaces some of the water and I am left with a mixture of what God has given me, and what I have chosen to add. How often do we make that choice in our lives? We feel we have what it takes to solve a problem, make certain choices, or live a certain way. When we choose to utilize our own resources rather than the one that God has given us, we are making the choice to not be “filled” with the Holy Spirit. Ray Stedman put it this way;
Now here he touches the great secret of real Christianity, the possibility of being filled with the Spirit. I am sure all of you know that when you became a Christian, when you believed in Jesus Christ and received him as your Lord, the Holy Spirit came to live in you. You have the Spirit, but the interesting paradox is that, though all Christians have the Holy Spirit, we constantly need to be filled with the Holy Spirit. The filling of the Holy Spirit is the momentary taking from him of the resources you need for the situation in which you are. It has nothing to do with an experience, or a feeling or a crisis; it is a quiet drinking again and again of an inner supply of strength. (Ray Stedman, “Watch How You Walk”Ephesians 5:15-20. www.raystedman.org)
This idea makes more sense if you also consider this next passage.
Do not quench the Spirit.
1 Thessalonians 5:19 NKJV
So although we are filled with all that we need, it also is possible for us to choose not to use those resources, and in essence “quench” the Holy Spirit and the help He has for us. The word for quench in the Greek is sbennymi which means to extinguish, as in putting out a fire. Does it not make sense that if you choose to rely on something other than the Spirit, it is the same as putting out His fire in your life?
I believe the only problem most of us would have with this is that quite obviously if we are in need of filling it seems the fault is our own. God has given us all that we need to live the spirit filled life, but it is a choice we must make to utilize the power we have been given by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. How do we do that? To me, it means I need to understand fully all that is available to me and that comes as a result of study, becoming as familiar as I can with the power of the Holy Spirit.
In my present job at a automobile dealership I am sometimes asked to travel and drive back new vehicles that we have purchased. Lately I have found that it is not just as simple as getting in and turning the key, like it used to be. New vehicles are so complex that it is a requirement that you look at the manual and learn all the systems in order to access all the functions and information needed to utilize all the car can do. This is the mistake I believe many make about the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. They know He is inside, but they don't do the study necessary to become familiar with all that He can do for us. That leads many to try and look elsewhere for the help they need to deal with the challenges that life can present.
Being filled with the Spirit is a choice. Look to Him for the help and power and answers to all that life can throw at us. Study to “show thyself approved”, and begin to live the powerful life available by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.